Located just 50 miles from New York City, is the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Established in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson during his presidency, West Point is a 4-year public university and is probably the most well-known of the 5 U.S. service academies. The U.S. Military Academy is also the oldest of the service academies and is referred to as West Point because of its location in West Point, New York – a site selected by George Washington for its strategic importance along the Hudson River. Today, West Point prepares students to serve as commissioned officers in the U.S. Army. Admission is open to current enlisted members of the military as well as civilians. But, with a 10% acceptance rate, admission is hard to come by.
It should come as no surprise that the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is so competitive. Students who attend the prestigious academy are granted a fully funded 4-year college education. The U.S. Army even includes room and board, medical and dental care, and a stipend in addition to tuition costs.
While the benefits of attending West Point are lucrative, they are not as free as they might seem at first glance. By law, graduates of U.S. military service academies are appointed as commissioned officer and are required to serve a minimum of 5 years on active duty. To some this may be a deterrent for applying to West Point, but to many it’s a major perk. You can essentially choose any of the academy’s 40 offered majors you want and you are guaranteed a job with full benefits after graduation. Even more, you won’t have any student loans to repay. Not too bad of deal.
Why Is Acceptance So Competitive?
With nearly 13,000 applicants in 2018, how did only 10% make the cut? Many applicants simply don’t meet all of the basic qualifications. Not just anyone can attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The application process is a bit more involved and selective than a regular college or university. The academy has stringent admission requirements and before you can even submit an application, you have to meet a whole bunch of qualifications.
First and foremost, you must be a U.S. citizen between 17 and 23 years old to attend West Point. In addition, West Point cadets must not be married, pregnant, or under obligation to support children.
In addition to the normal college admission procedures, West Point also requires applicants to get a nomination—usually from a member of Congress, pass a medical exam, take a fitness test, and participate in an interview.
Applicants must start the application process to be considered for West Point earlier than they would for a regular university. The application process typically begins during the second semester of the applicant’s junior year of high school.
How To Increase Your Odds
When you’re applying to a highly competitive school such as West Point getting in is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Here are a few ways to increase your chances of getting accepted into the U.S. Military Academy and joining the student body often referred to as “The Long Gray Line”:
One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for the best chance to attend West Point is to start the admission process early. One of the requirements that can take up a lot of your time is a nomination. Most nominations come from members of Congress and reaching out and receiving replies from their offices can take time. You’ll also need to plan to take the SAT or ACT early enough to receive and include your scores in your application.
Familiarize yourself with all of the requirements and give yourself plenty of time to get everything scheduled and taken care of. Your ability to complete this task is the academy’s first test of your time management skills.
Take It For a Test Drive
As a high school junior, you can participate in West Point’s Summer Leaders Experience. This one-week program gives interested students a chance to get a feel for what it would be like to be a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy and give you an idea for what the Army is looking for in its future leaders. The Summer Leadership Experience is also highly competitive with 6,000 applicants competing for only 1,000 slots each year. But if you complete the summer program, you can showcase your newly learned leadership skills, something the board looks at when considering applications.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Good test scores and a high GPA alone won’t get you into West Point. The service academy is looking for more than academic ability when it comes to screening applicants. They are looking for future leaders who are motivated and ambitious. You can emulate this by getting involved in your school and community beyond academics. Participating in sports, clubs, or community activities, and serving in a leadership position in those extracurricular activities can give you an edge over other applicants.
If you develop a plan to make yourself competitive and start early, you should have a good chance at getting into West Point. Good luck!